Namisa Blogger of the year 2013,Stimulating the much needed debate

Archive for October, 2011

42nd Session: 6th Meeting of Parliament: Issues

     just an overview on the forthcoming meeting of parliament   as one of the journalist who  has been following parliamentary meetings  seven years now.

Parliament is here again,Malawians tax payers are yet to be wasted again.

Can it be possible that the speaker’s hot seat be taken by someone?anything is possible with the DPP government.


Number of Meetings in a session.

Although the constitution does not restrict the maximum number of meetings the House can have in a session, the practice over the years have revealed that the 42nd session has become the longest in the history of the Malawi Parliament with 6 meetings.  Section 59 (2), (3) and (4) provide for the minimum number of meetings per session (2) and that the duration of any session shall be determined by the President in consultation with the Speaker.

PROBLEM

In established parliaments that follow the Westminster model like Malawi, a session is usually a year long and that at the beginning of the session the Head of state opens parliament outlining what his Government’s agenda will be like in the next 12 months and what has been achieved in the past 12 months. What is happening now is like the government has no specific targets/agenda to be met in a session hence the continuation of the 42nd session up to now. Worse still it has never happened that a session has two Budget meetings of Parliament: 2010/2011 and 2011/2012.

Why do the president and the speaker insist on the 42nd session?

Repealing of the Injunction Bill.

One of the issues that were raised in the 20th July petition was the repealing of the Injunctions Act. It is expected that the 6th Meeting of the 42nd session will repeal this Act or so that is the impression that has come from government quarters.

PROBLEM

The truth of the matter is that this is going to be difficult, or put bluntly the Injunctions Act will not be repealed if we consider the current legal framework.

The National Assembly standing Orders do not allow discussions of an issue that is before a court of law, the sub-judice rule.  An injunction was granted against assenting to the bill. The Government is challenging that injunction. What this means is that the issue of the Injunctions Act is still in a court of law and most likely the courts may not make a determination on the injunction and indeed the judicial review before the House meets on the 14th November. Effectively it means the House cannot proceed to debate any proposed bill to repeal the Injunctions Bill.

Committee Reports.

During the last meeting and indeed in previous other meetings of Parliament numerous Committee reports have been discussed and adopted in the House.

PROBLEM

The question is what then follows. Have there been any responses from Ministries and departments on issues raised in the committee reports as required by the rules of the House? Ever since the committees started presenting reports in the House, there has never been any response presented by any Ministry or government department in the House and the House itself has not followed up. Yet each committee meeting costs the taxpayer about 10 million kwacha discussing issues that nobody seems interested to neither respond to nor follow up. And there are 14 Committees which means K140 million spent per quarter translating to over a half a billion kwacha per annum.

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Will Malawi cooperate with the ICC?

Malawi says it will not arrest Sudanese president Omer Al Bashir as he is sheduled to jet in today for teh Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) summit.
This comes against the background by a call by the  New York based Human Rights Watch asking the government of the Southern African country government to implement the arrent warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 4 2009.

According to Elise Keppler, senior counsel at Human Rights Watch,  they have asked Malawi, as a signatory/member of to the ICC to ‘arrest and not host Al Bashir’

Meanwhile, Minister of Information Patricia Kalitati says the Sudanese president is welcome to the Warm Heart of Africa; adding the Hague wanted man has nothing to fear. ‘Why should Malawi arrest him and yet Malawi will benefit from his coming as he is to contribute to COMESA’, said Kaliati

However some commentators have warned that if Malawi they allow Bashir to attend the conference without arresting him on behalf of the ICC, to which Malawi is a member/signatory; Malawi is going to strain further its relations with the international community. That will not even be good for a country already deserted by the donor community.

Some are of the opinin that if Malawi implements the ICC warrant of arrest; the Sudan govt may reitariete by invoking work permits for Malawians in Sudan. They further warn that Malawians working in hostile spots like Darfur may become a target of kidnapping; the same way it was for South Africans when President Jacob Zuma announced that South Africa would arrest Bashir should he step his foot onto rainbow nation’s soil.

About 3 South African peacekeepers were kidnapped late last year in the hostile Darfur region by unidentified militia.

And if indeed Malawi arrests Bashir, which is very unlikely, Bingu’s image may improve a little bit amongst the international community.
President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC  on charges of genocide and other heinous crimes committed in the western Darfur region.